###Political Significance of Sharma-Raje Meeting

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08 Jul 24
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###Political Significance of Sharma-Raje Meeting

Rajasthan Chief Minister Bhajanlal Sharma's meeting with BJP National Vice President and former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in Jaipur on Sunday has sparked significant political speculation. Chief Minister Sharma visited Raje at her official residence at 13 Civil Lines in Jaipur, and this visit has ignited numerous conjectures in political circles.

Since becoming the Chief Minister, Bhajanlal Sharma has been making courtesy visits to various leaders, including the Governor Kalraj Mishra and former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. Although he is a first-time MLA and Chief Minister, he has extensive experience within the party organization and understands the importance of political meetings, partly due to his RSS background. He has met Raje at her residence before, but the timing of this meeting is particularly significant given the ongoing state assembly session, the resignation announcement of senior minister Dr. Kirodi Lal Meena, the upcoming state budget on July 10, and the proposed BJP state executive meeting in Jaipur on July 13. Political observers see specific motives behind Sharma’s meeting with Raje.

There is speculation that Sharma may have discussed the upcoming state budget with Raje, seeking her input. Raje has served as Rajasthan's Chief Minister twice and held the role of Finance Minister, presenting the state's budget during her tenure. This has led to the belief that Sharma sought her advice, particularly regarding the ambitious Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP), now renamed PKC-ERCP after a new agreement with Madhya Pradesh. Raje initiated this project and sought its designation as a project of national importance, which had strong support from then Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari. Despite political promises and support, the project did not materialize, and both the previous Congress government and the current BJP government have prioritized it. Sharma’s meeting with Raje could be an effort to leverage her extensive experience for the state's benefit. However, some political analysts argue that if budget consultation were the primary purpose, the meeting should have included Deputy Chief Minister Diya Kumari, who is also the Finance Minister.

Vasundhara Raje holds significant influence in Rajasthan politics. When former Vice President and BJP leader Bhairon Singh Shekhawat brought Raje into state politics, she led the party to multiple historic victories and became a popular leader, especially among women. Despite her contributions, Raje faced neglect during the recent assembly elections, and after BJP’s victory, she was not made the Chief Minister. Even during the Lok Sabha elections, she was sidelined, confining her campaign efforts to her son Dushyant Singh’s constituency, Jhalawar. This sidelining possibly impacted BJP’s performance, as the party did not achieve a clean sweep of all 25 seats in Rajasthan, a feat previously accomplished under Raje’s leadership in 2014 and 2019. A stronger performance in Rajasthan might have allowed BJP to secure a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha, avoiding the need for coalition support.

The BJP leadership has experimented with alternatives to Raje’s leadership in Rajasthan but without success. Former state BJP President and Haryana in-charge Dr. Satish Poonia, seen as an Raje opponent, acknowledged her significant contributions, emphasizing her central roles in both national and state politics.

Political analysts believe that Raje’s isolation during the Lok Sabha elections harmed BJP’s prospects in Rajasthan. With five assembly by-elections imminent due to legislators becoming MPs, the stakes are high for the BJP. Winning these seats is crucial for increasing the party’s legislative strength and influencing future Rajya Sabha elections. Thus, Sharma is keen on a collective approach, reportedly encouraged by the central leadership. Success in these by-elections is critical for Sharma, especially with upcoming local body and Panchayati Raj elections. Recognizing Raje’s importance, Sharma is likely seeking her support for the by-elections to boost BJP’s chances.

The upcoming political developments will reveal the impact of Chief Minister Bhajanlal Sharma’s recent meeting with BJP National Vice President Vasundhara Raje on Rajasthan’s political landscape.

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